This fall the Lundquist College of Business will unveil a new minor in sustainable business. The minor builds on strong student demand, as well as the strength of the University of Oregon’s cross-campus inventory of sustainability courses.
Designed for non-business majors, the minor is open to any student who wants to apply business solutions to address a variety of social and environmental challenges. The program helps today’s students understand principles of sustainability through the lens of business.
“A scientist taking discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace must understand principles of commercializing technology,” said Michael Russo, Lundquist Professor of Sustainable Management and academic director for the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. “An aspiring environmental activist must understand what makes a business tick. Proponents of sustainable neighborhoods must understand the principles of real estate investment.”
Russo, who played a key role in developing the new minor, explained that such cross-pollination is the whole point of this initiative.
“There are possible bridges to sustainable business from a great many undergraduate major programs. We see a large upside in engaging a diverse group of students that would appreciate and benefit from this program,” Russo said.
Izabel Loinaz, director of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, noted that demand for a sustainable business minor is so strong that students had essentially created their own paths to gain those skills through a combination for courses on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
“It was really interesting to backtrack what they cobbled together, what they thought they needed, and where they went,” she said.
Ultimately, after evaluating the different courses taken by students to add sustainable business skills to their resumes, it was decided to take a “cluster model” approach for the sustainable business minor.
“We designed the minor to be a little bit different than other minors,” Loinaz explained.
Most minors entail taking a predetermined series of specific courses, with a few elective options. Using a cluster model, students in the sustainable business minor are instead guided to double-down on particular functions within an organization, such as supply chain management. Or they can focus on such specific areas as climate, communication, or international relations.
This allows students to do a deeper dive into an area they’re already committed to or discover a new area entirely, Loinaz said.
“We feel that the way we structured the sustainable business minor, it is going to appeal to a lot of students on campus, particularly those majoring in environmental studies,” Loinaz said.
“This is giving them a little bit more of a curated group of business courses, so they can start to understand how to synthesize the crossover between their environmental studies focus and business fundamentals.”
The minor will also appeal to students in the journalism school, as well as students studying geology, Loinaz added. And the job market is growing for graduates in all kinds of fields of study who are also literate in sustainable business practices. Plus, today’s students want to feel like their work is meaningful. Adding the sustainable business minor will help them realize this goal.
“It gets them more enthusiastic about working. It helps connect their inner compass. It gives them a sense of confidence what they’re doing really matters,” Loinaz said.